Welcome to Wednesday Briefs, where authors post free fiction of 1000 words or less each week. I used this prompt: "May I help you with that?"
Hope kept staring at me from his dark, liquid eyes and I heard the light thump of his tail on the floor. When I had myself under control, I said, “Hope, come out here.”
He crawled backward, growling. I sighed and went from my knees to my belly. We studied each other until I put my chin on my folded hands in front of me. Hope's ears perked up but his paw remained on my keys.
“All right,” I said as I closed my eyes and rested my head on my hands, “let me know when you decide to come out of your hiding spot.”
It took Hope a long time to move. I laid quietly while he inched closer and closer. A wet nose poked me gently in the ear. I waited until Hope nestled up behind my neck, licking my ear with an enthusiasm only a puppy could bring, then snatched him by the nape of his neck. He squeaked and his little paws scrabbled frantically on the floor to stop me from manhandling him, but he was only a puppy after all.
I rolled around and cradled the squirming and wriggling Hope in my arms. “Shhh, boy, it's all right. I just need my keys.”
Hope wailed. I flinched so hard I almost lost my grip on him. I'd never heard a dog emit such a high-pitched, desperate sound.
“Hope!” I called out. “Calm down!”
He whimpered and struggled until I couldn't hold him anymore. Instead of diving back under the sofa, he stuck his head under my sweater and pushed his way farther up. At first I tried to stop him, but his wailing peaked at such a volume that I had to clap my hands over my ears. Hope used this freedom to burrow under my shirt, although his left forepaw got tangled in the fabric, which resulted in a squeaked protest.
After lowering my hands, I asked, “May I help you with that?”
Hope whimpered, but his frantic movements lessened. I freed his paw and Hope plastered himself against my chest until only his tail stuck out from my sweater. With a sigh, I sat cross-legged on the floor, waiting for Hope's breathing to ease.
“You're a troublemaker. All right, how about I take you with me in the car? But when we're at the store, you’ll have to stay there. Only for a short while.”
Hope nipped at my chest and I gasped. “Ow! Stop that!”
He wriggled his way out from under my clothes, which gave him the appearance of an oversized ball of fluffy fur, then he shook. I watched him squeeze himself underneath the sofa and groaned. “Hope.”
Hope came out quickly and dropped my keys onto my lap, then ambled away. Puzzled, I rose to my feet and straightened my clothes. Maybe he had a change of heart?
I hurried toward the door but stopped dead in my tracks. Hope sat in front of the door, holding a phone in his snout. He dropped it when he saw me and thumped his tail on the floor. I never thought it'd be possible for a dog, or any animal, to look pleased with itself but Hope sure pulled the look off.
“You... want me to call someone?” I asked. Hope barked and bounced to his feet. He nudged the phone in my direction. Dumbstruck, I bent and picked it up. “Eew! Puppy slobber all over my phone.”
Hope's ears flopped down and his large eyes seemed even larger than normal. I kneaded the thin skin behind his ears, reassuring him, “It's all right. It can be cleaned.”
I wiped the phone, then stared from my cell to Hope and back again. “I suppose you want me to call someone special, right?”
Hope wagged his tail and I thought about pinching myself to wake up from this daydream. It could only be a daydream because I was seriously talking to a puppy!
Despite my sudden fear for my sanity, I asked, “Who should I call?”
Hope expelled a long breath before he sat down with an accusing look on his face. I frowned, then it dawned on me. “Oh, I need to ask a yes or no question, right?”
He barked and looked up at me with an expectant expression. Pride swelled up inside me because I'd gotten his meaning immediately. A moment later, I pressed the heels of my hands against my eyes, wondering whether I was finally going insane from my grief.